Thursday, 1 April 2010

A precious legacy tainted by venal politics?

One would hope that the Greens would not get into the dog's dinner described below. Maybe I have chosen an inappropriate metaphor ...

Today the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, acceded to worldwide demands and designated the Chagos as a marine reserve. This declaration will make it the largest marine protected area in the world, totalling more than 210,000 square miles - an area twice the size of the UK. He was responding to the demands of over 275,000 people who had written in support of the proposal to preserve this unique marine habitat from further exploitation by commercial fishing. Read a fuller version of the history at the Protect Chagos website. For the uninitiated, it may be helpful to be reminded that here in the UK only 30, yes thirty, square miles of our seas have the protection granted to the Chagos.

However, this campaign has been accompanied by the pleas of the indigenous Chagosians, forcibly removed a generation ago to make way for the building of a US Air base at Diego Garcia. Despite winning a High Court ruling to permit them to return, HM government remains intransigent and awaits an EU Court of Human Rights judgement as to whether the continued exile can stand. See the Channel 4 news report

One can only hope that a way can be found to respect the rights of the indigenous people in a manner which promotes the vital conservation objectives of the marine reserve.

The lessons of this exercise will prove valuable to conservationists and politicians struggling with the sustainability of our own local waters, and those of the NE Atlantic, over fished to a disastrous level through the workings of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This Policy, in the process of reform needs radical revision as a matter of urgency. The world’s marine ecosystem needs a successful resolution of both dilemmas.

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